Making Better Batteries (Full)

This project will look at how battery materials are developed, how research-scale batteries are made and most importantly how the battery performance parameters are measured. Particular emphasis will be placed on looking at electrode materials in different battery chemistries and looking at the sources of variation in the examination and subsequent analysis.

Batteries are all around us. Different battery chemistries are used for different applications depending on aspects such as energy storage density, cost and power. For example, lead acid batteries are used for starter motors in conventional petroleum vehicles.

Lithium-ion batteries were commercialised in 1991 and the scientists/engineers working on this were awarded the Nobel prize in Chemistry in 2019. Lithium-ion batteries power mobile phones, laptops and electronic devices and are being widely used in electric vehicles and grid scale energy storage, e.g., the Hornsdale plant in South Australia.

There still remain challenges in lithium-ion batteries, ranging from energy storage density to safety to cost. In order to develop the next generation of battery materials and entirely new battery chemistries, we need research and development. This project will give students a taste of this.

What Students will do

Students will see how research-scale lithium-ion batteries are made from the electrode active materials, to electrode preparation and finally to coin cell assembly. Following this students will be given electrochemical performance data also known as charge-discharge curves. They will be able to compare the performance each cycle and after a number of cycles. They can compare between batteries of the same electrodes/composition, between electrodes of different compositions and between entirely different battery systems, e.g., next generation sodium-ion and lithium-sulfur batteries.

Subjects [useful, not essential]

  • Physics
  • Chemistry

Prerequisite Study

  • None

Areas of Student Interest

  • Energy & Batteries
  • Electrochemistry
  • Designing New Materials
  • Solid-state Chemistry
  • Structure-Property Relations
Neeraj Sharma

Lead Academic: A/Prof Neeraj Sharma - Associate Professor, School of Chemistry 

Neeraj’s research interests are based on solid state chemistry, designing new materials and investigating their structure-property relationships. He aims to design then fully characterise useful new materials, placing them into real-world devices such as batteries and solid oxide fuel cells, and then characterise how they work in these devices.  He loves to undertake in situ or operando experiments of materials inside full devices, especially batteries, in order to elucidate the structural subtleties that lead to superior performance parameters. Neeraj’s projects are typically highly collaborative working with colleagues from all over the world with a range of skillsets.

Lisa  Djuandhi

Mentor: Lisa Djuandhi - Post-doc, School of Chemistry

Lisa's main research interest is in the optimisation of lithium-sulfur batteries using organic and amorphous polymeric materials. This typically involves: (1) designing the electrode material, (2) testing its electrochemical performance and redox behaviour inside a hand-made coin cell, and (3) using a variety of characterisation techniques (e.g., nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), X-ray diffraction (XRD), X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS)) to gain structure-property insight for further improvements. Lisa finds this work especially rewarding because it pushes her keep learning new things and consider perspectives from multiple disciplines of science.